The origins of house music in Amsterdam can be traced back to the late 1970s and early 1980s. Inspired by disco and electronic styles emerging from Chicago and New York, the first house parties started popping up in the city. Pioneering clubs like the RoXY and IT played a major role in developing the Amsterdam house sound.
Opened in 1983, the RoXY became one of the most famous clubs in the world under the leadership of Joost van Bellen. Van Bellen organized extravagant parties featuring drag queens and other performers that helped establish the club’s reputation. The RoXY played a variety of electronic styles but became particularly known for its house music nights. Resident DJs like Sven Väth and Ben Liebrand helped spread the uptempo, four-on-the-floor beats that were taking off in America.
Another seminal club was IT, which opened in 1984 and was co-founded by Ben van den Dungen. IT focused exclusively on house and techno, becoming a hub for the burgeoning underground scene. DJs like Derrick May and Frankie Knuckles would do residencies at IT, exposing Dutch audiences to the raw, stripped-down Chicago house sound before it broke big internationally. The inclusive, liberating atmosphere at both the RoXY and IT made Amsterdam a pioneer as one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly electronic music destinations in the world.
In the late 1980s, the Amsterdam house movement gained further momentum with the rise of Eurodance. Pioneering producers like 2 Unlimited and Technotronic blended house rhythms with catchy pop melodies and vocals, achieving mainstream success across Europe. The Eurodance sound had a massive influence on Dutch audiences and artists, helping house music break into the mainstream. At the same time, a harder gabber style was emerging from the rougher edges of the scene.
In the early 1990s, the summer of love phenomenon exploded in Ibiza, turbocharging the global spread of house and trance. Dutch DJs and producers like Sven Väth and Ferry Corsten played a major role in establishing the White Isle as the epicentre of electronic dance music. The euphoric sounds and all-night parties in Ibiza had a profound impact back in the Netherlands.
In the late 90s, sizeable commercial event companies like ID&T rose to prominence organizing massive raves and festivals. Events like Sensation, which started in 2000, brought house and trance to stadium-sized crowds, with headliners like Armin Van Buuren and Tiësto. The gabber hardcore style also blew up during this period. Meanwhile, a new generation was taking Amsterdam house in a darker, deeper direction with the emergence of labels like Djax-Up-Beats.
In the 2000s, the Netherlands became synonymous worldwide with big-room EDM thanks to hits from Hardwell, Martin Garrix, and others. However, the underground scene continued evolving as well. In recent years, Amsterdam has seen a resurgence in popularity for more minimal, soulful house sounds and deep, tech-influenced styles. Current prominent clubs like De School and Shelter are leading lights, while tastemaker labels like Daptone keep the low-slung house spirit alive.
Overall, Amsterdam’s four-decade journey illustrates house music’s progression from an underground phenomenon to a dominant global force. The inclusive, open-minded spirit that fueled the early Amsterdam scene lives on today, as the city remains a vibrant hub where house and techno continue morphing into new forms for new generations to discover.